CDC issues health alert as 2024 measles cases match last year’s total

March 20, 2024

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory in response to a rise in measles cases in the U.S. and abroad, with domestic infections this year already meeting the total seen in 2023.

As of last week, the CDC has confirmed 58 measles cases across 17 states this year. The agency noted in its advisory that the majority — 54 cases — have been linked to international travel.

“Many countries, including travel destinations such as Austria, the Philippines, Romania, and the United Kingdom, are experiencing measles outbreaks. To prevent measles infection and reduce the risk of community transmission from importation, all U.S. residents traveling internationally, regardless of destination, should be current on their MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccinations,” the advisory stated.

Vaccination against measles is highly effective against infection with a full two-dose schedule providing 97 percent effectiveness. But immunization rates have seen a slight decline in recent years, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-vaccine sentiment.

Measles is highly infectious, especially for unvaccinated populations. Symptoms of infection can include fever, cough, runny nose and pink eye, as well as a characteristic rash. Measles spreads through the air and can linger on surfaces for up to two hours after an infected person has left a room.

The virus can infect up to 9 out of 10 unvaccinated people exposed to it.

The CDC advised early childhood education providers and health care providers to ensure that students are up-to-date with MMR vaccinations. The agency also emphasized that all U.S. residents six months or older with no evidence of immunity with plans to travel internationally should receive MMR vaccines before departure.